The Motel Life

Willy Vlautin, Author . Harper Perennial $13.95 (206p) ISBN 978-0-06-117111-6

In a gritty debut, Vlautin explores a few weeks in the broken lives of two working-class brothers, Frank and Jerry Lee Flannigan, who abruptly ditch their Reno motel after Jerry Lee drunkenly kills a boy on a bicycle in a hit-and-run. The two are case studies in hard luck: their mother died when they were 14 and 16, respectively; their father is an ex-con deadbeat; neither finished high school. Frank has had just one girlfriend, motel neighbor Annie, whose mother is an abusive prostitute. An innocent simpleton, Jerry Lee is left feeling suicidal after the accident, despite his younger brother's efforts (à la Of Mice and Men's Lenny and George) to console him: "It was real quiet, the way he cried," says Frank, "like he was whimpering." On returning to Reno, an eventual reckoning awaits them. Vlautin's coiled, poetically matter-of-fact prose calls to mind S.E. Hinton—a writer well-acquainted with male misfit protagonists seeking redemption, no matter how destructive. Despite the bleak story and its inevitably tragic ending, Vlautin, who plays in the alt-country band Richmond Fontaine, transmits a quiet sense of resilience and hopefulness. (May)

Reviewed on: 02/26/2007
Release date: 04/01/2007
Genre: Fiction
Paperback - 240 pages - 978-2-226-17359-1
Paperback - 206 pages - 978-0-571-22808-9
Paperback - 206 pages - 978-0-571-22807-2
Paperback - 206 pages - 978-0-06-232593-8
Ebook - 240 pages - 978-0-06-212728-0
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